Leather 101: Different Types Of Leather Furniture
Leather is the only material that gets better and more luxurious with age. No other material is so durable, easy to care for, and natural. Because leather “breathes,” it won’t pick up on surrounding room temperatures, whether too cold or too hot. The list of positives goes on and on; the only drawback is sorting out the lingo. For more specific terminology, check out our leather glossary.
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Hide and Seek
Leather begins with an animal hide that is tanned or preserved. The first quality issue is where leather is taken from the hide. The best leather is always top grain, from the topmost layer of the surface. Less expensive and weaker leathers, including suede, are taken from lower layers or splits of the hide.
Dying to be Beautiful
The quality of the leather is also based on the dyeing process. Soft and supple aniline leathers are considered the most luxurious and stylish, but they are not necessarily the most practical option.
Just for the record: Suede isn’t the only product made from splits. Finishing techniques like embossing or antiquing can be applied to splits to make them resemble top grains. Such leather is less expensive but does not have the same hand or strength as true top grains.
Keeping it Clean
Leather care is pretty basic and starts with preventive maintenance. These simple steps will extend the life of your leather furniture:
- Heat and light are not your furniture’s best friends. Try to keep leather upholstery two feet or more from direct heat, and remember that leather (especially aniline and nubuck) will fade if near windows, under skylights, or in direct sunlight.
- Keep your furniture dust- and dirt-free. Dusting and occasional vacuuming with a soft brush will prevent dirt and dust from being ground into the leather.
Deal with spills and soil gently (never scrub), but as soon as possible. Permanent stains can result if food and liquid is not wiped away immediately.
- To clean nubuck and suede, blot (don’t rub) excess liquid immediately with a clean white cloth or sponge. Allow the area to air dry naturally, then brush lightly with a suede brush to restore the nap.
- Always use a clean cloth or sponge to clean up spills.
- It’s important to blot spills, instead of trying to rub or scrub them away, then allow to air dry.
- Body oils will stain leather, but they gradually blend into its surface giving both patina and character.
- Because of the lack of surface coats, pure aniline leathers are less stain-resistant and should be handled with extra delicacy.